Detroit Fan Letter, Bonus Anecdote about Me Being Ridiculous
Also the Fisher Building in Detroit has the nicest bathroom floor in the world
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I was in Detroit for a few days this week. Detroit is beautiful. The flowers had just bloomed, the sun came out and the Detroit River turned lightly green, as it does under such conditions.
I have never seen such magnificent buildings in my life. My second favorite building (the first was the Guardian Building, look it up, I don’t have much to say about it other than “Holy Shit”) was the Fisher Building, a 30-story Art Deco building on West Grand Boulevard and one of the important works of architect Albert Kahn, who built a lot of really sweet buildings in Detroit. I rode a bike there, mostly up Cass Avenue, on fairly well-maintained and well-marked lanes. During my ride an old man and a younger man asked me if I had seen the bus. I hadn’t. The public transportation sucks in this city, people kept telling me. Detroit is supposed to be making a comeback, they said, so when is the bus going to make a comeback.
I needed to use the bathroom once I got there and went to get a key from the guy at the Fisher Building’s front desk. The basement was vast and empty. I couldn’t get the bathroom door open. The key seemed to be at least five millimeters too thick. After trying the lower one that the key seemed to be for, I tried the top lock that seemed to have been out of commission for years. No luck. I tried for a few minutes, wondering why stuff like this always happens to me, like the coffee machines in my hotel rooms never work, I have to call my boyfriend every time I want to use HBO, and there’s always some crazy problem with the remote requiring some elaborate work-around. I feel like my body gives off an electrical signal that makes things not work.
A maintenance man, in his mid-sixties, happened by and I said, “Excuse me, I don’t think this key fits, am I crazy?” The man said I was not crazy and opened the door for me.
Using the toilet, I kept my hands inside the cavernous and overused pockets of my trench coat (I avoid purses whenever possible, certainly when riding a bicycle) gripping the many items so nothing would fall in. My hand enclosed around something unfamiliar. Mystified, I took my hand out of my pocket and found myself looking at the actual bathroom key, a slim normal key on a large red plastic chain that read “Women.” It even had a picture of a woman on it. I had been trying to open the door with the key to my bike lock. I do at least four hundred things like this every single day. Why can’t I stop? In the midst of these problems, I constantly tell myself hey, use your fucking head, there’s an explanation for why this is not working, and it’s you, but in the end I always think I have been wronged or duped or something is just broken.
Here are both of the keys, and here is the gorgeous floor of the Fisher Building women’s bathroom.
Even though I was supposed to be in a hurry I wandered into an antique store on the ground floor and stayed for a while talking to the owner and a woman he was hiring to help him out. We talked about art, Bakelite, and COVID vaccines. I noticed a small white and green pitcher in a case and the owner told me that an expert had taken a look at it and said it had been made by an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute. It wasn’t for sale. He had a lot of stuff that wasn’t for sale.
This was my last afternoon in Detroit. I ran a little late for my flight because of this conversation, then because I had to see the Diego Rivera mural at the DIA, no photos because my phone was dead, and then a last-minute tour of Grosse Pointe, which I wanted to see because of the movie, no photos because I was running my mouth the entire time, as I do, then, ultimately, because I was eating a fantastic chicken sandwich. The cab driver hit the empty fast lane and did a straight 85 to the airport cranking “Hey Ma,” windows cracked to the last of the light, while I wrote this text to a friend who wants to get out of rural Northern California because there are so many scary people there:
Thanks for reading. My last piece was funnier than this one, I can’t be that funny every week. Please subscribe if you have the means. This weekend I will have my first-ever guest piece, by writer Sophie Lewis. Lewis, known for many things including correct opinions about that octopus movie, was recently attacked by some (and celebrated by others) on Twitter for daring to say that the Wes Anderson film The French Dispatch is about police-worship, which it’s literally about, that like the way the movie Cars is about cars, or the way When Harry Met Sally is about two people named Harry and Sally, meeting. I am honored to feature her, she is very smart and funny and knows a lot about fake cake and fake stuff, as you will see.